I came early, in time to see most of The Vandelles’ set, and I was happy I got to hear them play. They’re a solid, good ol’ fashioned noise rock group with screaming distortion and surprising hints of blues and R&B. They played with tons of energy and clear musicianship. The rambunctious guitar solos from frontman Jason Shwartz were too short and too rare, and always spiced up whatever song they were added in to.
As often happens with opening bands in hip venues in New York, totally dance-worthy music and intense playing onstage resulted in very little movement offstage. There were occasional whoops between songs and one brave, lonely guy moshing by himself in the middle of the dance floor, but the chill from the crowd was palpable. At the end of The Vandelles' set, when they threw their guitars into their amps and off the stage, it seemed as much out of frustration as out of showmanship.
Tonight was the last show in Hooray for Earth’s residency at Pianos. The band has been playing every Wednesday in November, and quite a crowd had shown up for their last hurrah. Our very own Kelly Knapp got to chat with Hooray for Earth’s songwriter Noel Heroux last week after their third residency show. Heroux told her that he likes “a big, grand sound,” which is an apt description of his music. Drummer Seth Kasper likes to lay down big, open beats that are heavy on the low floor tom, a fat sounding, resonant drum. Heroux’s spacey vocals are layered on top of distorted guitars and ambient synths to create a warm bath of sound that defies genre labels, but is definitely “big and grand.” Their songs were often long, too, which was usually ok, since epic length fit with the epicness of their music. Occasionally, the songs went on too long without enough change to keep me listening.
At Pianos, their set was accompanied by a video projected on the back wall, a sort of backdrop that went back and forth between static and shots of traffic at varying speeds. I wasn’t a big fan of the visuals. They distracted me from what was going on up front, and they weren’t interesting enough to add to it in any meaningful way. Still, Hooray for Earth was a lot of fun, and had the crowd bobbing their heads for the first time that night.
Computer Magic live is Danz plus drums, bass, guitar, and a pre-recorded track. The band played straightforward riffs underneath the backing track and Danz’s wonderful, piercing vocals. To be honest, most of the time they sounded unnecessary – or rather, they sounded like they felt that they were unnecessary. They let themselves be subsumed into the recorded material, keeping time and filling the stage, but not giving further reason to be there. Sometimes, as in the opener “Get a Job,” the live music didn’t quite meld with the recording, and the sparse certainty that makes Computer Magic unique got lost in redundant sound.
It was in when the live band felt free to make some noise of their own that Computer Magic came together. During “Running” and “The End of Time,” the band stepped it up, becoming intense and energetic. These songs made me wonder what the band would sound like if they tried turning off the backing track and further refashioned the songs for a live setting. Who knows if it would even be Computer Magic anymore, but I for one would like to see them try it.